Learn ways to support your children in building upon their passions.
Have your children been stuck with their heads in their computers, tablets and phones for the last 18 months? Children have had limited opportunities to build upon and explore their passions outside of the classroom or virtual walls. I like to use the word passion interchangeably with words like determination, pride and love. Passion is a strong desire that can enable children to do amazing things.
Passion is an emotion that needs to be acted upon. Without action, passion yields no worthwhile results. In turn, passion fuels action. When a person has a passion for something, they love it even when they hate it. Isn’t that what we all want for our children? It is important to remember our children might find passion in something that as a parent you are not interested in or understand. Try to learn and make sure your child feels as if you are invested in supporting them on their personal journey of expanding knowledge and expertise.
How do you help your child recognize their passion and how do you put it to good use?
Finding what your child is passionate about is a journey in itself. Don’t be frustrated if they don’t feel like they know yet. It is important to continue to motivate your child to keep trying new things. It will come even if you have to build it. If you see your child in the midst of finding their passion or find them hot on its trail, make sure to reinforce and remind them not to give it up, even if it’s hard.
What if you know what your child has a passion for but they do not act upon it?
This is the main problem with passion: You can have all the passion in the world for something but if you never do anything about it, that passion will never be developed. I like to use the analogy of a plant when discussing how to help guide children to passions. Overwatering or under-watering a plant will not help it reach its greatest potential. The same goes for a child. To reach their greatest potential, children need to feel support but not nagging, love but not smothering, and gentle pushing but not shoving.
But I’m scared to change things up.
What if you’re afraid of what will happen if you change things up in your home? Yes, it is true that change is scary, but it’s not until we leave our comfort zone that we find what we’ve been missing out on. It is important to be open and honest with your child by validating and acknowledging that change is hard and uncomfortable. Along with the validation, parents can provide confidence in their child’s ability to try new things and stumble upon their passion.
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Passion and Mental Health Benefits
When children find their passion, they are more likely to engage in increased social behaviors due to finding peers that have similar interests. Their passion could very well become the hub of their social circle and lead to lasting connections.
Additionally, the child’s mood will increase due to feeling pride in the success and having increased ability in the activity they are passionate about. When children do something that they are passionate about, their brain kicks into overdrive, releasing substantial amounts of dopamine. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical, which will make your child feel joy and a sense of accomplishment. It also keeps them focused and encourages them to keep hard at work, developing their talents and ability within their specific passion area.
A child that is passionate about a task will perform that task more often and become better at it. Additionally, any advances or accomplishments that come from their efforts will go a long way in increasing their self-esteem. Along with self-esteem comes self-discovery. Self-discovery is a lifelong process. By supporting your child in exploring and finding their passions, you will be teaching an important lesson in identity development.
Creating a Meaningful Life
Assisting your child in acknowledging, finding and maintaining passion will help them continue finding meaning in their life. Remember, as your child’s parent you are their biggest cheerleader. Exploring and finding passions is not an easy feat and children will need someone to lean on in times of frustration and/or defeat. Be their stability and continue to guide them through the ups and downs those passions will often create.
Melyssa Zive, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), specializes in the mental health of children, adolescents and families, and is the program director at Stepping Forward Counseling Center’s Yorba Linda location.